February 28, 2013

Women's History Month

March is hailed as Women's History Month. In celebration of this, I have my sixers complete a mini-research project in which they are required to locate biographical information about ten women. I call it mini-research since they only have to provide a sentence or two of information for each of the women. They also must provide the citations for the webpages from which they gathered their facts. I do review lessons about using internet search engines and the authenticity of information as well as introducing how to properly write internet citations.

When I first began this March activity, it was just this mini-research. As the years have gone on, I've added additional parts to it. In the past I have had my students expand their research into full-fledged, five paragraph or more reports. They have published the reports on a wiki and even created their own webpages. This year I am going to have them create video reports using the website Animoto. They are comfortable with Animoto, having done a book trailer earlier in the year.

I'll be creating some support materials to go along with the project during the next week and offer the complete packet in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store. Meanwhile, I'm offering the original mini-research worksheet as a FREEBIE. You can download it HERE or by clicking the link directly below the graphic.

Frame graphic courtesy of The Sweet Berry Patch

Happy Teaching,
The Teacher's Desk 6

February 27, 2013

Pinterest... How did I survive without you?

I am wild about Pinterest! If I don't get my daily fix I go into withdrawl.

Well... not literally, but close!

Just take a look at my boards. I've only been truly active on them since Thanksgiving and already they are loaded with great ideas. http://pinterest.com/teachersdesk/

I am not alone in my addiction either. My second floor colleagues at St. John School are also addicted to Pinterest. As a result, it's not unusual to see Pinterest ideas hanging in our hallway, in our rooms, being worked on by students- you get the picture.

Recently on Pinterest, I found a terrific art idea for my sixth graders based on famous glass-blowing artist, Dale Chilhuly's glass chandeliers. While his are crafted of glass, ours are crafted of plastic water bottles and Sharpie markers. The originals that he and his artisans create are beautiful; however, the ones that my sixers designed and fashioned are GORGEOUS... all thanks to Pinterest! Take a peek. What do you think? If you want to know more about this project, it is pinned on my Just For Fun Pinterest Board.

This isn't the only great Pinterest idea that can be seen in our hallway. At Christmas I found a clever idea on Pinterest for promoting reading and decorating the hallway. It was a cut-out of a Christmas light to which a brief book review was attached. All of the students in our hallway, grs. 3-6 each fashioned a light and wrote a book review of a recently read book. The lights were printed on brightly colored paper, cut-out, then strung together on green yarn. The "string of lights" were illuminated with the sign READING BRIGHTENS OUR LIVES. It was a hit!

I especially liked that we were promoting reading. I went in search of more ideas like this on Pinterest and struck it lucky. During mid-January through this week, grs. 3-6 promoted reading once again when they invited everyone to WARM-UP TO A GOOD BOOK. This Pinterest idea featured a large mug of cocoa on which was attached a brief book report. TOO CUTE! Both of these ideas can be found on my Pinterest Language Arts board.

These two ideas inspired me to create my own book promotion display for the upcoming season of Spring. Titled SPRING INTO A GOOD BOOK, students can write on a small label about a book they have recently read and attach it to a spring shaped background. These book reports can then be displayed for all to read and perhaps find a book to SPRING into! Here's a FREEBIE sample of this activity. It contains one spring shape, a flower, and the book report labels along with directions for assembly. You can download the FREEBIE HERE or by clicking the link below the graphic. The full version has four shapes to choose from (flower, frog, butterfly, and kite) and is available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Our St. John students will be working on their shape report over the next several days. Our display should be ready by early next week, just in time to usher in Spring- I can't wait!

Happy Teaching,
The Teacher's Desk6

February 25, 2013

Paragraph a Week

I wish I had a dime for every email I have received during the past year since I closed the original Teacher's Desk website that asked about Paragraph a Week (PaW). I probably could've paid for my license renewal that is coming up at the end of this school year. Some of the emails were teachers desperate for a prompt that was needed for a lesson. Some were not so pleasant, one even to the point of threatening me with a lawsuit. While still others wished me well with my endeavor to "publish" the program and offer it on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Paragraph a Week is still available... if you know where to look. HINT: Check out the blog post below, the one about the life-saving website, dated February 20, 2013. It's tucked away in the Lesson Plans drawer, in the Writing File.

I have been working on Paragraph a Week during this past year, coming up with a fresh user-friendly format. I'm only about a tenth of the way through the extensive warehouse of prompts. At last count there were over 100, many original to me, many submitted to The Desk by visitors, and many created by the 5/6 Connection user group! It is my plan to finalize the program and offer it in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store sometime during the summer of 2013.

Until then, I'll periodically post a prompt for you to read, use, or comment upon. The first, not actually a paragraph assignment, is for St. Patrick's Day and features a story starter. You can download the file HERE or by clicking on the link below the picture. Erin go bragh!

Graphics From the Pond 

Happy Teaching,
The Teacher's Desk 6

February 23, 2013

Spring Fling Linky

I'm going to give it a try--- adding my blog to a Linky Party! This one is hosted by A Perfectly Poetic Page and is featuring Spring related items. I'm adding my recently created Spring Task Cards. These are activities for Language Arts that are aligned to the Common Core State Standards for ELA grade 6 and are available in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store. You can access my cards HERE.

The Spring Fling Linky Party is located HERE. There are great products, both FREE and PRICED, available. Hop on over and grab some. It's definitely NOT too early to plan for spring.

Happy Spring and Happy Teaching,
The Teacher's Desk 6

February 22, 2013

A "Note"worthy Method for Teaching

Besides being a teacher, I am a musician and singer. I constantly have music floating through my head and I generally walk to a beat. As a result I have always tried to include music in my teaching. Setting facts and concepts to a familiar tune and teaching it to children results in a quicker and longer retention rate of material.  It does take a bit of time to set your instructional content to music, but with the advent of YouTube it is easy to locate a piece of music for just about any concept that you must teach. Just ask the parents of  my current sixth grade class.

I had the pleasure of working with this group of students when they were in fourth grade, teaching them Science. I introduced the concept of the periodic table and its features to them during a unit on "Kitchen Chemistry." Pretty heavy stuff for fourth graders! However, knowing that these children LOVED to sing, I went in search of some music about this concept. I found a few gems on YouTube that were suitable for this age group and shared them with the class. One turned out to be quite a treasure! They beg me to let them sing it TO THIS DAY (two years later) and they have gone on to write additional verses. Nearly every one of my current sixth graders is able to recite AT LEAST the first 20 elements in the periodic table thanks to this video.

With that being said, I am pulling out an old, old song I used years ago in my Language Arts classes, one to help my students learn the purpose of each of the eight Parts of Speech. It's been hidden in a drawer of my desk, collecting dust far too long. It served my students well at one time, and since my class this year LOVES to sing, it's time to air it out once again. It was developed by me and a few staff members who were attending an afterschool inservice about multiple intelligences and thematic planning (hint as to the decade). 

Parts of Speech song

Sung to the tune of "Here We Go 'Round the Mulberry Bush"

What are the parts of speech, parts of speech, parts of speech?
What are the parts of speech?
Listen well and learn!

Nouns,verbs and interjections, adverbs, pronouns, prepositions,
Conjunctions and adjectives
Are the parts of speech.

A noun is a naming word, naming word, naming word.
A noun is a naming word,
a person, place, or thing.

A verb is an action word, an action word, an action word.
A verb is an action word or
am, is, are, was, were.

A pronoun renames a noun, renames a noun, renames a noun.
A pronoun renames a noun:
she, he, it, they, we.

An adjective's a describing word, describing word, describing word.
An adjective's a describing word;
it tells about a noun.

An adverb describes a verb, describes a verb, describes a verb.
An adverb describes a verb:
how, when, where, how much.

Interjections shows surprise, show surprise, show surprise.
Interjections show surprise.
Oh my gosh!

Conjunctions are joining words, joining words, joining words.
Conjunctions are joining words:
and, but, or, for, yet.

In, around, about, behind, over, under, up, inside,
Into, during, with, before
These are prepositions.

Now you know the parts of speech, parts of speech, parts of speech.
Now you know the parts of speech.
You will use them in your writing.

Please feel free to borrow this song and use it with your students. I'd love to hear how the experience goes.

The Teacher's Desk 6

Teach Junkie Creative Ideas

February 20, 2013

Way Back Machine: A Lifesaving Website

I use numerous websites to help in planning lessons and selecting activities for all of my classes. I rely heavily on digitized copies of worksheets, and never bother downloading videos or music anymore. Nearly everything I need for teaching is at my fingertips, keyboard, and monitor. However, there is nothing worse than trying to access a favorite website, only to find that it is gone or has been totally revamped.

Never fear! Way Back Machine is here. I stumbled upon this website many years ago. In fact, it was that discovery that firmed my decision to close the teachersdesk.org domain. My old website still exists:

The Original Teacher's Desk is featured on The Way Back Machine from Jan. of 2002 through May of 2012. I can still access most of my old material. Have fun exploring! There are some real treasures there.

Visit the original Teacher's Desk.

The Teacher's Desk 6

Response Booklets

I recently observed a sixth grade language arts teacher at a different school and liked an activity that she was doing with her classes. I immediately began planning how I could incorporate this same idea into my own classroom. I call the activity a Response Booklet. The first one I'm having my students do is centered around sentences and aligns with the Common Core Standard for English Language Arts grade six number five. It's a great way for my students to brush-up on previously taught skills without them having to complete a worksheet, and it causes them to read more closely and thoughtfully.

I am anxious to see my students' completed booklets and will share photos here when they are finished with them.

 Feel free to download a free copy and try it out in your classroom. Although intended for a sixth grade class, it can easily be adapted to other grade levels. This is the first of several response booklets I have planned. The complete set will be available for purchase in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store when it is finished.

You can download a FREE sample copy HERE.

I hope you enjoy making Response Booklets with your students. I welcome your comments and suggestions.

The Teacher's Desk 6

The Teacher's Desk... Repurposed and Now Open!

For years I hosted The Teacher's Desk website. I hosted Paragraph a Week and housed an archive of 100's of classroom ideas for teachers in grades 5 and 6. It began as a small website on a local ISP in late 1996 with a goofy web address. Then along came Geocities and I uploaded my site there. Still called The Teacher's Desk, it still had all the same content and a goofy web address. Sometime around 2003 Geocities combined forces with Yahoo and personal websites were not going to be accorded the same luxuries without a price. It was then that I invested in my own domain teachersdesk.org and began paying a monthly fee to house what for years had been free. Great!

Except that after time that monthly fee began to weigh on me, especially after I saw that there were new companies offering FREE websites with terrific features. In 2012, I took the plunge. I closed the teachersdesk.org and began porting things over to Google. The classroom website came first. Many of the once free items from The Teacher's Desk are now being offered on Teachers Pay Teachers, some still free; some for a price (reasonable, I might add). Still other items are being updated and will be featured here on the The Teacher's Desk 6 blog.

I started out creating this blog as a means for parents, students, and me to be to discuss the books we were reading in my Language Arts classes. I didn't like this really but it was a blog topic and I wanted a blog; however, I just let it be for quite some time. Today was a snow day for St. John School. I puttered around the house, finished all the chores, and started playing Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook when it occurred to me: Why not update that blog you opened last year?

Here it is! I'll be posting classroom ideas and activities on a regular basis. Feel free to borrow and share. I invite your comments, responses, inquiries, etc. Just one rule, please: give credit where credit is due. I promise to follow the same.

Thanks for joining me here at The Desk,